It took me three and a half years, but last weekend I finally managed to complete my KMG P2 grading!
That’s probably meaningless to those of you who don’t practice Krav Maga; it was four and a half hours of dry drilling strikes, doing techniques and receiving a ridiculous number of blows to the head. It is a lot more fun than it sounds, but I did almost vomit on someone after he punched me in the solar plexus.
It should only take six months between levels, but I have my excuses/reasons. I thought I’d write about them, and how I eventually got around them. Hopefully it’ll be of help to someone else.
Reason the first: Crippling social anxiety. When I first began Krav Maga training, it was to challenge myself to be around people. And fuck me, it was a challenge. I couldn’t hold eye contact with anybody, had no idea how to make conversation, and often didn’t go to class at all! I would stand outside the gym with my hand ready to push the door open … and then I’d flee. Blind with panic, I would bump my way back to the train station and phone my boyfriend in tears.
Solution the first: There wasn’t one. I ended up missing a full year of training, and the only reason I went back is because a class was starting much more locally to me. In my year off I did a lot of CBT work, experimented with different prescription medication, and got diagnosed with my personality disorder*. One thing that really made my life difficult was being told I was “shy”. I’m not shy; I’m an introvert and I have a limited tolerance and interest in other people. Understanding that meant I could prepare to be more sociable when needed to be, instead of being pressured into being “switched on” all the time.
The new local class was a game-changer; not just because it was local, but because it was for newbies. We’d all be starting from the same place, so there would be less pressure. Of course, this perceived pressure was all in my head. I always try to make an effort to train with newbies now, because I remember how awkward I felt when I started.
Has my social anxiety gone? Nope. Every class is a battle, and I have sometimes turned heel and fled upon arriving at the gym. But most of the time I can remind myself how great I feel afterwards, and push through. The folk I train with are amazing, and I do count them as friends; the people you can mutually rough-house with are friends for life.
Reason the second: Fibromyalgia. I’ve been dealing with this for at least a decade, and it still messes up my day-to-day activities. Issues that affect my training include constant pain, fatigue, hypermobility, and cognitive impairment**. The latter two are the biggest issues. My hips and knees nearly always feel like they are on the verge of hyper-extending, which makes me really uncomfortable with throwing any sort of kick. The cognitive impairment is more complex. My brain processes language very slowly at times; sometimes I don’t recognise spoken language as English, and need to have words written down. Lefts and rights are a complete mystery; I need to allow my muscle memory to handle that sort of stuff.
Pain is still a big issue though. Any sort of fitness/strength training is hell to me. When doing push-ups, jumping squats or burpees, it’s like having metal rods rammed through your palms/soles and right up the inside of your limbs, while your joints are assaulted with skewers. So if you start trying to cheer me on, you will have to forgive me when I tell you to fuck off. Finally, fatigue. It’s alright because usually everybody is knackered by the time we finish the warm-up, so it’s usually a level playing field.
Solution the second: My anxiety about my hypermobility, and my cognitive impairment have improved with practice. On an ideal week I will attend three classes, but in reality it is usually one or two. In the run up to my grading, I also did several private lessons where I could focus on a few techniques. I cannot recommend private lessons enough. For the pain, I just have to accept that I cannot compete with my classmates. There is no shame in that. However, I do try to compete with myself. If I can do just one more push-up/jumping squats/burpee than I did in my previous class, then that is a victory. For the day of the grading, I loaded up on ibuprofen. I was reluctant to do this as I don’t want to become addicted to painkillers, but if I hadn’t have done it I would not have been able to last the duration.
Grading Day: To get through the grading, I broke up the time into class-sized chunks. Four and a half hours is just over two classes. Simple! I made the decision to grade with someone I didn’t know too well, because I thought I would take it more seriously. However, that meant that I wasn’t sure how far I could go with them. During the dry drills and technique demonstrations, I limited my effort to 40%-50% but went to 100% when asked by my instructor. This strategy got me though P2, but I don’t think it’ll help with P3. My instructor briefly gave me feedback. I can’t remember the exact words he used, but my performance was lacklustre. I can completely accept that.
Will I be doing my P3? Yes. It feels nice to say that. After my P1 I am sure I cried “Never again!” I can’t say when I will be doing it though, because I need to figure out how to be more shiny and spirited first. Any advice on how to do that would be most welcome!
*I do not believe that I have a PD and ** may be a symptom of what I do have,